Praying mantis isn’t only the deadliest of predators—it’s the most efficient too. Once it gets hold of the prey the victim is less likely to escape death. Praying mantis bites the head off the prey then followed by the rest of the body. This is the rule of thumb for eating lunch. Even so, the female that eats the male during or after mating is thought to consume the male’s head first. If you happen to come across any headless male then it probably is the unlucky mating partner of a hungry female.
How Do Praying Mantis Eat? – Why Do Praying Mantis Eat the Head?
There might be a reason as to why mantises are adapted to beheading their mating partner even when they counter no threat. Earlier scientists thought that the ganglion occurs in the mantis’ abdomen (instead of the head) so removing head possibly enhances fertilization.
They believed that the cannibalizing behavior of a female could be one of the reproductive strategies. However, lately researchers have rejected this phenomenon. They said that since the experiments are performed inside the laboratory (artificial environment) the mantis would not be able to demonstrate just the kind of behavior it does in the wild. Let us not forget that praying mantis is extremely sensitive to any disturbance such as the lights.
Mantids just can’t behave in the laboratory the way they do in the natural setting. Therefore, scientists have yet to decide as to why praying mantis eats the head first.
Praying mantises are ferocious animals in the world of insects. They are pure carnivores so much so that they sometimes consume their counterparts. However, most of the mantis’ diet consists of small animals such as grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, and beetles. Praying mantises can also kill hummingbirds and snakes but these are not the essential part of their menu. Adult mantises are thought to take on small reptiles by using their quick launching strategy.
What Do Praying Mantis Eat? – Praying Mantis Diet – How Do Praying Mantis Eat?
A female mantis is infamous for attacking her mating partner once the mating is done. During captivity, a praying mantis likes to eat grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, and monarch butterflies. In the wild, mantises are ambush predators in that they are pretty expert in catching live prey by getting as close to the prey as they possibly can. Mantises can also camouflage their bodies but when it’s not possible they will simply stalk their prey like big cats.
Once the mantis reaches adulthood it mostly relies on small animals like mosquitoes, frogs, caterpillars, birds, leafhoppers, and lizards for daily consumption.
Mantises are thought to be biotrophic for they eat carnivorous arthropods and herbivorous arthropods in equal proportions. Mantids are a bit choosy for they mainly consume only those arthropods that are useful for plants. These animals include butterflies, spiders, wasps, and bees. Once the mantis finishes its meal it usually cleans up its body and leg and sometimes mouth too.
Mantids are smart hunters, they have infinite patience to wait for their prey. However, when the prey is within striking distance they will simply snap out their arms to catch it. Mantids are not usually known to miss out on their prey. Mantids have a firm grip because they have claws attached to the very end of their arms. The prey is less likely to escape once the mantis gets hold of it. More so, the raptorial forelegs of a mantis make sure that the prey doesn’t move at all. A few species (Ligariella and Entella)are known to run after their prey. The food they eat can determine their overall lifespan. For instance, a Chinese mantis lives a much longer life when it feeds on pollen as compared to when it doesn’t.
What Do Praying Mantis Eat in Captivity?
Mantids can make good pets provided they are fed regularly and are not raised in groups. It’s advisable to breed one individual at a time. When the mantis is young you can feed it with crickets, bugs, or other small flying insects but as they grow the size of their prey ought to be increased. A captive mantis also enjoys feeding on honeybees, house flies, fruit flies, and wax moths.
Mantids do not drink water like we do. One or two sprays of water would probably be sufficient for daily intake. If however you’re raising a species which lives in the rainforest in the wild then you’ll need to spray more.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Plants?
Unlike other stick insects, praying mantises do not eat plants. Stick insects typically prefer to bramble, white oak, ficus, raspberry, rose, and leather leaf viburnum. It isn’t clear however if mantises eat these plants.
What Do Praying Mantis Eat? – Video
Hurd, L. E., and Eisenberg, R. M. (1990). Arthropod community responses to manipulation of a bitrophic predator guild. Ecology 76, 2107–2114.
Helfer, J. (1963). “How to Know the Grasshoppers, Cockroaches and Their Allies.” Brown, Dubuque, IA.
There’s no denying that praying mantis demonstrates cannibalism particularly in mating. That is to say that female mantis consumes her mating partner right after the mating. However, the sexual cannibalism is just a little too complex as females don’t always eat the male. They are probably either too hungry to feed on their partner or perhaps eating males may actually benefit them reproductively. Let’s see in detail why do praying mantis eat their mates.
Why does the Female Praying Mantis Eat the Male? – Do Praying Mantis Eat their Mates?
The female praying mantises are pretty infamous for regurgitating their males but that isn’t the rule of thumb. Scientists have found out that only one out of every forty five mating ends up in cannibalism; most of the times the female eats the male but sometimes it’s the other way round. About one-fourth of the mating ends up in the death of the male.
However the case maybe, the cannibalism does appear to benefit females in one way or the other. According to the latest findings Proceedings of the Royal Society B, females actually lay more eggs when they eat their mating partner as compared to when they don’t.
The female first bites off the male’s head followed by its body parts. If the male is bigger in size then it probably assists the female in laying greater number of eggs. In order to prove it scientifically, researchers feed captive mantises crickets but each cricket is tagged with radioactive labels so they could identify each of them individually. Moments later, males and females were paired off to see if they eat each other. Researchers found out that the females which consumed their mating partner produced as many as 51 eggs—25% more than the average size of the clutch.
Females are more likely to cannibalize smaller males but sometimes they even consume their partner before mating. Once the pair finishes off mating, the male appears to be nothing more than a decent meal for a female. Nonetheless, scientists still believe most females do not fancy eating males and only 30% of mating ends up in cannibalism.
According to a research, male mantises will be attracted towards a female that isn’t only less aggressive but also less starving so as to get away with their cannibalistic attitude. Mating with skinny females mostly, if not always, comes with the heavy price for males.
“When a female ate a male after a mating event, she was found to have around 17.7 per cent more of his biological material in her reproductive tissues, including her eggs and ovaries, than a female who only mated and did not cannibalise her mate,” explained lead researcher Kate Barry, a biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney.
Probable Reasons behind Female’s Cannibalism
Apart from evolutionary reasons scientists believe that females feed on their males because they’d probably like to have better food one that helps them live longer lifespans and look after their young. Or perhaps the female might fancy giving birth to ‘fitter’ offspring. Kate also believes that not all males are eaten by the females. As a matter of fact, 80% of males get away with cannibalism. That being said, more research needs to be done so we get to know precisely as to why females consume males in one situation and not the other.
But it is up to the female if she wishes to take on her mating partner. The female’s overall condition of her body as well as her eager to feed on males primarily determines the cannibalism behavior. The biologist also added that male mantids prefer to mount on the female from her back whilst approaching gradually so as to avoid her eating them.
Why does the Female Praying Mantis Eat the Male? – Video
Liske, E.; Davis, W. J. (1987). “Courtship and mating behaviour of the Chinese praying mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinenesis”. AnimalBehavior. 35: 1524–1537. doi:10.1016/s0003-3472(87)80024-6.
Lelito, Jonathan P.; Brown, William D. (2006). “Complicity or conflict over sexual cannibalism? Male risk taking in the praying mantis Tenodera aridifolia sinensis”. The American Naturalist. 168 (2): 263–269. doi:10.1086/505757. PMID16874635.